It’s not that the whole time I was in Serbia I was pining for London, but occasionally I did have a quick pine for the necessity of a hot bath, mug of chocolate, and wrapping up in a duvet. Luckily, my every wish was granted as, upon arriving back to London, it was lashing with rain.
In these types of circumstances, I feel justified in making pudding for tea. It feels almost nostalgic: like when you’re little, and you’ve gone on a long muddy walk on a Sunday, and someone stayed home and made a lovely warm pudding with custard… And you don’t even have to have savouries first. Now I’m grown up I can do exactly this, except I don’t have to sit in a car with a stinky dog, or, in fact, walk anywhere.
So called because in Serbia, on one night of the year, little children put out their wellingtons and if they’ve been good, they’ll wake up and they’ll be filled with plums. And the Serbian child who has been the very best in all the land will wake up and their boots will have been transformed into pure silver (or alternatively, because I found it hard to pronounce “szilvás gombóc”, the Hungarian name).
Plum dumplings. These are traditionally a savoury side dish that can be eaten with meat and vegetables. I prefer a heap of them to go with Downtown Abbey and my fluffiest dressing gown.
The following ingredients are enough for one person (multiply depending on how many people you’re cooking for or on how greedy you’re feeling!)
One large baking potato
Three level tbsp plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 slice of bread or a couple of tbsp breadcrumbs
For each person: boil one baking potato, mash and add a dribble of sunflower oil, about three dessertspoons of plain flour and half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. Mix into a soft dough – not too soft or it’ll disintegrate when you cook it, but not as stiff as a pastry. Put it in the fridge for half an hour or so.
Whilst waiting, if you haven’t got shop-bought breadcrumbs, make some by putting a slice of toast in the blender. Then , prepare the plums – the best way to do this is to use little damson plums and cut them in half, putting a spoonful of sugar where the pit was. If you’re using larger plums, cut them into inch chunks and sprinkle with sugar (If they’re hard little things, stew them for a few minutes to soften). You can also just use plum jam or apricot jam. If you’ve got a particularly sweet tooth, you can even use a square or two of chocolate instead…
When everything is ready, take a small ball of the dough mixture and enclose the plum filling within it (the dough-casing shouldn’t be too thick).
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and, at the same time, fry the breadcrumbs in a little oil until golden, and take them off the heat. Keeping the water boiling, drop about six dumplings at a time in the water, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When they rise to the top, cook for about five minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon, and immediately roll them in the hot breadcrumbs. Pile in a bowl, add any extra breadcrumbs, and sift cinnamon and sugar on top. To finish off, line up any costume drama on the iplayer, and eat as many as you can.
Serbian Sweets Recipe by Genevieve Jones